Asia stocks rise as China reopening offsets caution over U.S. payrolls

Asia stocks rise as China reopening offsets caution over U.S. payrolls
© Reuters.

By Ambar Warrick — Most Asian stock markets rose on Friday as markets bet on an economic boost from China’s reopening of its borders this week, although gains were limited amid caution over the release of closely-watched U.S. nonfarm payrolls data later in the day.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes rose about 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively, as the country prepares to open its borders after three years of COVID-19 lockdowns. The two indexes were also up over 2% for the week.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.4%, but was the best performer in Asia this week with an over 6% surge, after China said it will reopen its borders with the Asian financial hub starting from January 8.

While the reopening in China is expected to eventually spur an economic recovery, the country is still grappling with a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in the near-term, which analysts say could delay a broader reopening and still disrupt business activity.

But this notion has hardly dissuaded traders from piling into Chinese stocks, which logged stellar gains towards the end of 2022 amid a surge in bargain hunting.

Stock markets which are heavily exposed to China also gained on Friday. The Taiwan Weighted index added 0.7%, while Australia’s ASX 200 index rose 0.7%.

South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.7%, with Samsung Electronics (KS:005930), the country’s largest firm, rising more than 1% even after it signaled that its fourth-quarter profit tumbled about 69%.

The firm, along with most other major chipmakers, is struggling to cope with a massive downturn in the electronics industry as weakening economic growth dried up demand across the globe.

Broader Asian markets were somewhat mixed, as focus turns to upcoming U.S. nonfarm payrolls data, which is expected to factor into the country’s monetary policy. While the reading is expected to show that the jobs market cooled slightly in December from the prior month, the figure has surprised to the upside for the past eight months.

Strength in employment gives the Federal Reserve more headroom in its crusade against inflation, which is likely to keep U.S. interest rates higher for longer, weighing on Asian markets.

India’s Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex 30 indexes fell about 0.4%, as foreign funds continued to lock in strong profits from 2022, while Philippine stocks led losses across Southeast Asia with a 0.9% decline.